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Monday, September 27, 2021

BTA V Levy and Operations Levy; You Should Say No to One of Them

 If you are a long-time district watcher, you start to see patterns in how the district communicates its needs. No matter who the superintendent is or the make-up of the Board, when it comes to levies, they say the same things with one voice.

And I can't blame them - they want the money. 

But I ask you: when you get your next property tax bill look carefully at it. About half is funding for these levies. Do you think you are getting your money's worth for that kind of taxing? Has the district clearly and transparently explained where they are spending those dollars? 

February 2022 will see two renewal levies. Yes, they are not new but yes, they generally get larger every  time. (But there is one exception this time.) 

The Board is having a work session this week on the levies on Friday, September 29th from 4:30-6:00 pm and then there is a work session for the Budget from 6:00pm to 7:30 pm. Here's the agenda with documentation.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Important Findings for Boys

This is a fascinating and troubling op-ed in the New York Times, "It's Become Increasingly Hard for Them to Feel Good About Themselves." (You can read it for free; the Times will send a link to your email.)

The op-ed, written by Thomas B. Edsall, includes research on male youth brain development, family structure, school structure, behavior skills, and future job prospects. Taken together, it's a sad portrait for America's men and boys. (All bold mine)

The Times Endorses Hersey

Update: when I read the Times' endorsement, I went and checked at the Federal Way website to see if Hersey still worked there. And there he was. But I had many saying no, he isn't and today I went and looked and poof! he was gone. 

So Director Hersey is no longer a teacher.

end of update

The Seattle Times has endorsed Brandon Hersey to retain the school board seat he was appointed to in District 7. There were a couple of interesting statements on his part and a glaring error from the Times.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Seattle Candidate Forum September 28th

 I had been wondering when we might hear from the candidates for Seattle School Board. 

There's a candidate forum on Tuesday, September 28th via Zoom sponsored by Black Education Strategy Roundtable (BESR), League of Education Voters (LEV), School's Out Washington (SOWA), the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC) & Youth Development Executives of King County (YDEKC).

Register for Zoom Link

From the SESEC website:

Auto closed captioning will be available. If you have any questions or access needs/accommodations/supports (such as language interpretation), please contact vivian@allfivesinfive.org and mindy@allfivesinfive.org.

Confirmed Candidates as of Sept. 21:

School Board
Vivian Song Maritz (D4)
Laura Marie Rivera (D4)
Michelle Sarju (D5)

City Council
Nikkita Oliver (Position No. 9)
Teresa Mosqueda (Position No. 8)

In other news about the school board races, King County Labor label endorsed Vivian Song Maritz for District 4, Michelle Sarju, District 5, and Brandon Hersey for District 7. They pointedly said that they opposed Dan Harder, District 5. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Seattle School Board Trashes the Idea of "Accountability and Transparency" in their Work

 Folks, most of you know I have been a public education advocate in Seattle for decades. And just when I think Seattle Schools/Seattle School Board cannot get worse, they always surprise me. Below is a quick summary but I will flesh out the details below that and, when I finally get information that IS public information that WAS paid for by Seattle taxpayers and WAS already voted on by the Board, I will write more detail.

My perception of the bottom line is that the Board is trying to protect its members, the district is trying to not get sued and the people of Seattle are being gaslighted and deceived by the people employed and elected to run Seattle Schools. 

Summary

In September of 2020, two senior staffers at SPS filed a formal letter of complaint to the Board. Those two women were Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi, both black women. In their complaint, they state that for months, both then President Zachary DeWolf and then VP Chandra Hampson had "intimidated, harassed, bullied, gaslighted, retaliated and silenced" them in their work environment. The two women also charged that there was racism involved in this behavior by Hampson and DeWolf. The two women do not detail when/how on the counts but it apparently culminated at a Board committee meeting in September 2020.

We now know that the Board's reply to this was to launch an external investigation by a law firm into the charges.

Last Wednesday, at a regularly scheduled Board meeting, the final investigation report results were announced. According to the report, Hampson and DeWolf were found to have bullied, harassed and intimated both Scarlett and Al-ansi but not racially or by gender. 

The Board voted to accept the final investigation report, give a copy of the named Board policy to Hampson and DeWolf and advise them to comply with the superintendent's procedure that flows from it and that future directors receive training on the policy. 

The policy is 5207 and deals with how SPS staffers and district volunteers behave and act towards each other.  Sadly, we come to find that the policy does NOT include Board members and that actually, there is NO policy around how Board directors treat staff or each other. 

The Board also folded into the motion that they waive another policy 1420 that requires that all documentation for each item on the Board agenda be attached no later than three days before. Because the Board had chosen - for no stated reason - to NOT attach the final investigation report to the agenda for the public to see. 

I have sent in a public disclosure request - because CLEARLY the report is done and voted on - for the report and am told I can get it October 1st. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Around the Horn at Seattle Public Schools

Editor's note: a rather stunning admission came out at last week's Board meeting involving President Chandra Hampson and VP Zachary DeWolf.  It made for some rather tortured discussion. I am waiting on a document that is a final investigation report in order to be reporting clearly on this issue. Look for that post this week. 


COVID

Saw this today on a parent Facebook page. Apparently a parent got a call from the school nurse to pick up her child with a sore throat/runny nose (but no fever). The nurse told her that SPS had changed their symptom policy and if a student has one or more symptoms, they would be required to be picked up immediately. The child can then return to school 24 hours after a negative COVID test. 

Wanted to let other parents know about this change. From my conversation with the school nurse, it seems that the expectation is that parents should keep their kids home and get them tested if they have any symptoms whatsoever now.

The district's COVID dashboard indicates the number of cases is going up.

Parents also wondered about testing at schools and it seems some schools give a handout where parents can go. One parent said the principal at her school said that schools will offer it only to those with symptoms/exposure to COVID. But the principal seemed unsure when this would be happening. 


Parents, what have you heard at your school? I see nothing new at the SPS website.

K-5 Curriculum Survey

Which is then retitled at the link at website as "Needs Assessment Survey for Families and Community Members." 

One question seems off to me:

How important is each of the following to the goal of math learning in Seattle Public Schools? Answer: essential, very important, somewhat important, not important
  • Instructional materials connect mathematical concepts and learning to authentic family, community, and cultural experiences
  • Instructional resources for teachers provide support for the learning needs of all students (Multilingual learners, Highly Capable, etc.)
  • Instructional resources for teachers provide support for small group instruction and activities.
I mean, what parent doesn't want teachers to have resources to serve all kids? And that first one? I'm just not understanding what that would look like.

Applying for Advanced Learning
Here's the latest and it's not all that clear but that's the SPS way.

Community meetings about the upcoming capital levy, BTA V and the Operations Levy.
Every three years, the district asks voters for money for Operations as well as for one of two expiring capital levies. This time it is for BTA V (Buildings, Technology, Academics/Athletics). The district - in its adorable way - doesn't tell you how much they are asking, just:

These levies are expected to be on the ballot in February 2022. They would replace the expiring levies and are not new taxes. (bold theirs)

One, the last Operations levy was $815M. The last BTA levy was $475M. I would expect the district to ask for more for each levy. So yes, not new levies and yes, not "new" taxes. But will you pay more? Highly likely. 

Meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. and are expected to end at 7:30 p.m. or earlier.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Can’t make the online meeting? Meetings will be recorded and posted on the school levies webpage.
The webpage says the links to the meetings will be there a week before the meetings so that would be tomorrow, September 14th. If they are there, I will put them in.

"Survey" for Feedback for RFP for Superintendent Search
I saw the district has this feedback page. The first thing is your consent to give the feedback (odd) and then "demographics" where they ask for your name, how you are connected to SPS, phone number and email. That's NOT demographics, that's personal information. Also odd.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Teaching American History

 I wanted to revisit this subject after this truly wonderful speech at a Georgia school board meeting by parent, Melanie Moore. (Partial and all bold mine)

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Oh the Things You'll Learn - Operations Committee

 I am a bit behind but did want to update folks about what was in last month's Board Operations Committee meeting.

I hadn't heard of anyone who was running the Tech Department but, from the minutes, it appears there are two people. One is Carlos del Valle, Executive Director of Technology and Nancy Petersen, Director of Technology Infrastructure. Mr. del Valle's LinkedIn page says he's been in that position since November 2019. Maybe I lost track of hires during COVID. Ms. Petersen has been with the district for about 10 years with a different tech title. There's an interview with Mr. del Valle from November 2020 on the Technology recovery for SPS during COVID.

From the minutes of the previous Operations Committee meeting: